Can’t control my brain. #PlagueSongs, no. 19

Only five chords — in fact, the same I-IV-V chords played in two different keys (E and F#). Two and a half minutes. In sum, classic Ramones. I chose the song because it combines boredom and urgency: “Nothing to do, nowhere to go” and “Hurry, hurry, hurry before I go insane.” I think many of us…

Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives, and I decline. #PlagueSongs, no. 17

When I started assembling my COVID-19 Spotify mix (at Boston’s Logan airport, 13 March 2020), R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” led the playlist. It still does. At that time, I didn’t think I would actually try to learn it. The music isn’t difficult, but what…

Live to see another day. #PlagueSongs, no. 16

This week’s #PlagueSong is more uptempo than last week’s, and not written for the acoustic guitar. Yes, it’s… the Bee Gees’ disco classic, “Stayin’ Alive.” This is one of the earlier songs I remember. As a child, I checked the Saturday Night Fever record album out of the library, and then made a cassette of…

If you’re lost, I’m right behind. #PlagueSongs, no. 15

You’ll know Everything But the Girl’s Amplified Heart (1994) for its hit single “Missing.” But take a listen to a deeper cut from that record: “We Walk the Same Line” (Really, do listen to the original: Tracey Thorn’s alto is far more pleasing than my tenor.) The lyrics’ evocation of love and worry resonate in…

My neighbor and my friend. #PlagueSongs, no. 14

Fred Rogers (1928-2003) was one of the kindest, most empathetic people in human history. We need more of his kindness and care in the world. That is one reason why this week’s Plague Song is the theme to his children’s television program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968-2001). I think, these days, fans of the show are…

No matter how I struggle and strive. #PlagueSongs, no. 11

Given that I’ve played all of these on an acoustic guitar, you’d think I’d have covered a country song by now. But this song, co-written by Hank Williams and Fred Rose, is the first. Williams recorded “I’ll Never Get out of This World Alive” in June 1952, the single was released in November 1952, and…

If you just call me. #PlagueSongs, no. 9

Some of Bill Withers’ songs seem always to have existed. It is as if they were always out there in the ether, but needed him to bring them into the world. “Grandma’s Hands,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and “Lean on Me” — the song I’m performing for this week’s #PlagueSong. Here’s the late, great Mr. Bill Withers…